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April 19, 2010

Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 24

A beautiful sight. Earth is polluted by its very own people, who have broken its laws, Disrupted its order, violated the sacred and eternal covenant. Therefore a curse, like a cancer, ravages the earth. Its people pay the price of their sacrilege. Isaiah 24:5-6 (MSG)

A few years ago I went to see an exhibition of Iowa artists. I ran across a simple landscape of a cornfield drawn with pastels. I was surprised by the emotional reaction I had to the picture, and how beautiful it was to me. I'm sure a lot of people looked at it and muttered, "It's just a stupid cornfield."

That experience of standing in front of that beautiful pastel taught me a lot about who I am. Though raised in the city, I am a child of Iowa. I've never been a farmer. I have a "brown thumb." Yet, my life has been framed by the never ending cyclical seasons of tilling, planting, weeding, detasseling, and harvesting. I have a real appreciation for agriculture. It's all around me. It's part of who I am.

Today, I'm reminded that man's first home on Earth was a garden, and the first occupation given to man was that of a gardener. Our responsibility to care for God's creation goes back to Adam and Eve, and I don't believe that responsibility was ever taken from us. When we ignore our responsiblity to the Earth, we pay the price for it.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and toddandd

April 16, 2010

Shooting Star on Steroids

So, the other night after rehearsal Wendy and I are sitting in the couch talking. I look out the living room window and see this strange sight. A huge fireball rocketed across the northern sky and then was gone. It was like a shooting star on steroids. My mind conjured up images of the space shuttle falling out of the sky in flames. Not something you see everyday. I shouted and and ran for the front door. Wendy, who didn't see it, wondered what in the world I was so worked up about.

I found out yesterday that it was a meteor. The Astronomy prof at the University of Iowa was on public radio yesterday talking about the event. I guess it's a pretty rare sight to behold. The last record of a meteor this big in Iowa was about 150 years ago.


Speaking of Opening Night

So it was opening night of KOLD Radio, Whitefish Bay last night. We had a small but lively audience who seemed to really enjoy the show and it was great to finally get the show in front of a crowd. There were plenty of small mistakes on stage. Few, if any, would have been noticed by the audience. I always like it when opening night has a few glitches. It means that your best performance is still inside you waiting to come out.

Went out with the cast and crew after the show. What a great group of people.

Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 23

Truth offends. For the next seventy years, a king's lifetime, Tyre will be forgotten. At the end of the seventy years, Tyre will stage a comeback, but it will be the comeback of a worn-out whore, as in the song:

   "Take a harp, circle the city,
   unremembered whore.
Sing your old songs, your many old songs.
   Maybe someone will remember."
Isaiah 23:15-16 (MSG)

Last night was opening night of the local community theatre show. It was really well received by the audience. Nevertheless, there was one patron who made a comment about being offended by something in the show. No surprise. I've served as the president of the board of directors for our local stage troupe for the past few years. In that capacity, I get to answer the letters and e-mails of offended audience members. There's always a few of them. Interestingly enough, every complaint has come from a good, upstanding religious person.

When I read passages like today's from Isaiah, I wonder how straight-laced religious people with their undies in a bunch make it through God's Message without being offended. Do they take out their exacto knives and cut out the offensive passages or just ignore them? What do they do with Isaiah? He pulls no punches. The old prophet walked naked in public to make a point. He used worn-out whores and used menstrual rags as metaphors.

So much for propriety.

One of the things I've always loved about God's Message is the way it presents Truth in all sorts of powerful ways. When you read it for yourself, you find that God doesn't play it safe. He doesn't pander to anyone. Sinner and saint alike will find it inspiring, convicting, and regularly hard to swallow. Truth, communicated through intense metaphors, will offend all sorts of good religious people. It's akin to what I've come to learn and love about art, literature, music, and theatre:

If you communicate what's true, you're always going to offend somebody.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and libbyrosof

April 15, 2010

Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 22

Storm. You looked and looked and looked, but you never looked to him who gave you this city, never once consulted the One who has long had plans for this city. Isaiah 22:11 (MSG)

I have a friend who is currently walking through an incredibly strong and powerful life-storm. His life is completely upside down, and as the storm circles around him the chaotic effects seem to multiply. As I walk beside him, I've been impressed at his response to all of the tragic events swirling around him. His heart aches, but I don't see him reaching for a pill, a drink, or a one night stand to dull the pain. He is not running from the storm. He is resolutely walking through it, and quietly seeking God's strength in each and every moment.

There is nothing like a crisis to reveal the condition of a person's heart. Where we look for strength and what we reach for to comfort our pain says a lot about who we are and where we stand in our relationship with God.

I love my friend, and I know he's going to be more than alright. These momentary circumstances are going to result in new depths of wisdom. That which is dying within him will be transformed to new life. His heart is fixed on God, and God is faithful. He'll be fine.

What saddens me are those who look, and look, and look in all sorts of places for an escape to life's pain, but never once consult the One who has eternal plans, good plans with a bright future, for those who will simply ask for it and have the faith to seek after it.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and ilhangendron

April 14, 2010

Crack Me Up

KOLD Radio, Whitefish Bay rehearsal April 2010
Last night was the first of two dress rehearsals for KOLD Radio, Whitefish Bay. The show opens on Thursday. Our friends Kevin and Becky came to the dress rehearsal since they will be out of town this weekend. The entire cast was glad they came. We needed an audience, even if it was a small one.

There is something that happens during the long nights of rehearsal. The jokes which seemed so fresh when you first read the script begin to taste stale as they come out of your mouth. You've said them so many times to an empty auditorium and felt the silence bounce off the back wall. You begin to wonder if the lines were ever funny, and then you begin to question whether anyone will laugh. There is a common statement made towards the end of the rehearsal process: "This show needs an audience" and it was certainly true of this show.

So, as our little audience began to chuckle and guffaw through the first Act last night, you could feel the energy of the entire cast lift. Things started to click. Everyone perked up. Spirits soared. And, everyone began to feel the humor of the show anew.

One of the things I pride myself in is the ability to remain focused on stage, and last night was a humbling moment. There is one line in the play that is so hilarious that it took a long time for Wendy to utter it without cracking up. In the tedium of the last few weeks that was not a problem. It felt so stale that we rolled right through the line without feeling so much as a twitch in our funny bones. Then last night we had an audience out there in the darkness laughing hysterically. The line which had felt so dead to us experienced a sudden resurrection. Wendy uttered the line. I broke concentration for a split second and cracked a tiny smile. Wendy saw the chink in my armor of concentration and proceeded to completely lose her composure. She broke into uncontrollable laughter, and I lost it too. It was like the old Carol Burnett show when Tim Conway had the cast in stitches or a Saturday Night Live sketch when the players can't hold it together.

It took a few lines fighting back the tears of laughter, but we got our groove back. Nevertheless, the rehearsal gave us all some new life as we get ready to perform this weekend. (By the way, there are tickets still available!)

Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 21

A long night's journey. A voice calls to me from the Seir mountains in Edom, "Night watchman! How long till daybreak? How long will this night last?" The night watchman calls back, "Morning's coming, But for now it's still night. If you ask me again, I'll give the same answer." Isaiah 21:11-12 (MSG)

There are sections of life's journey that seem to take forever. The toughest stretches of the road always seems to take the longest to traverse. Last year I watched as our daughter, Taylor, made all of her wedding preparations. Those last eight months leading up to the big day wore on her as her heart ached to get to the wedding day and get on with her life. This year I watch as our daughter, Madison, prepares to graduate from high school. I'm not sure I've seen such an acute case of Senioritis. She is so ready to get to graduation, spread her wings and fly. I look back at my own experiences, and the countless times when it felt like I was plodding my way through pitch darkness with no hope of the dawn.

Despite a nagging belief to the contrary, God never promised us an easy road. In fact, God's Message consistently reminds us that the path of Life is narrow and difficult. This is not because God does not love us, but because God loves us so much that He will go to great lengths to grow us up, mature us, equip us, and instill in us the character qualities that make us like Him.

It is only through faith and perseverance that we experience the morning light, and realize just how far we've come.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and monkeyleader

April 12, 2010

Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 20

Shocked! God told Isaiah son of Amoz, "Go, take off your clothes and sandals," and Isaiah did it, going about naked and barefooted. Isaiah 20:2 (MSG)

Picture it yourself. Isaiah, the man of God, naked and barefoot walking through the streets of Jerusalem. People's eyes growing wide as they came upon him. Women screaming and quickly looking the other way so they don't have to look at his pasty white butt. People quickly crossing the street to avoid him. Men standing outside the local pub jeering at him. Good church-going religious people screaming insults and picking up stones to throw at him to punish his despicable act of public indecency.


"Quick! Hide the children's eyes!"

Imagine the talk at the dinner table that night.

"Who does he think he is? He calls himself a prophet? A man of God would never do that! God wouldn't ask someone to do something like that!"

"He's crazy, I tell you. Completely insane. I've always said that Isaiah was a few bricks shy of a full load."

"I'm telling you right now, we're going to the temple tomorrow and having a talk with the high priest. I'm going to give him a piece of my mind. Either that crack-pot, Isaiah, gets thrown out of the temple for good or I'm not going to give one more shekel to the Temple renovation project!"

Yes, God told him to do it. God is a God of metaphor and the prophets were his mouthpiece. The people refused to heed God's words, so God told Isaiah to give the good religious people of Jerusalem a word picture they could not ignore.

The more I study God's Message the more I conclude that God is not as concerned about social propriety as many of the people who claim to be His most faithful followers. God is much more concerned with our sincere and active love - our honest and humble obedience than he is about our propriety and public image.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and dieselbug2007

April 11, 2010

After Six Years...The Last Dance

Last night was prom for Madison. This is the sixth straight year we've gone through the annual rite of passage for American teenagers. Taylor went to prom all four years of high school. The first two years were with friends, the second were with her husband-to-be. Madison skipped out on her Freshman year, but went to prom her last three years of high school.

I must admit that it was a little nostalgic last night watching Madison getting dressed up and heading off. As far as high school prom goes, this is the last dance for the girls. Wendy and I sat and tried to remember each year. So, here is a trip down memory lane...

Taylor Prom April 2005 019
Taylor walker prom lr

Taylor Prom

  Girls & Dates Prom 2008 LR Madison prom 2 040409 LR 2010 04 10 senior prom 038

April 09, 2010

Top 10 Reasons You Should See "KOLD Radio"

From the home office at Carl & Lena's Place for Beer in Whitefish Bay, Minnesota:

Lars Knudsen's


10. Lena's bound to bring her famous Hot Dish.
9. Speaking of Hot Dish, did you see that new lady in town with the leopard-skin skirt?
8. Carl might just sing that Camp Wampum song again (though not on key).
7. Ruth will sing jingles to the tune of all your favorite Lutheran hymns (on key).
6. See the biggest sporting event since the Broomball Championship of 1984.
5. Those smut peddlers from Duluth get revealed for the hosebags they are.
4. Johnson's Piggly Wiggly, where the savings will make you "giggly!"
3. Sven Oxtrude learns what you can do with a SPAM sandwich!
2. Learn why the Silver Eagle Spinner (half-inch sport-fly) is the best lure for Crappie.
1. Free tickets to "Ole's Lutheran Hall of Fame!"

Tell all your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers!!

Union Street Players presents KOLD Radio, Whitefish Bay April 15-17 at 7:00 p.m. and April 18 at 2:00 p.m. on the stage of the Joan Kuyper Farver Auditorium in the Pella Community Center. Tickets are $8.00 in advance and $10.00 at the door. Tickets may be purchased in advance by visiting the Pella Community Services office in the Pella Community Center (712 Union Street) Monday through Friday between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Tickets may also be purchased over the phone using a credit card by calling Tom or Wendy at 641-620-9107.